The Permaculture Podcast

    Episode 1520: Farm School with Miriam Volat

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    Miriam Volat

    My guest for this episode is Miriam Volat the director of Farm School, a project located in Sonoma County, California, in cooperation with the Permaculture Skills Center.

    The program she is developing takes an intense long-term approach to training up a new generation of regenerative farmers from all walks of life who will then return to their communities to become engaged according to their own interests. Whatever way they walk this road they will do so fully prepared, including business plans, farm designs, and a network of mentors to support them. Though not a permaculture design course in and of itself, it is a parallel kind of program that we would do well to replicate in order to expand upon the Permaculture Design Course and better prepare students to begin applying permaculture whatever their occupation and wherever they call home.

    Listen to Miriam’s description of the project, including a number of points we discuss applicable to permaculture design. Whether you are an instructor or not, there is much to learn during this conversation.

    You can Find out more about this project by going to and clicking on “Farm School.”

    Two things, it always seems to be two things doesn’t it, stand out for me from this interview. The first is the reminder that we need to take a long term approach to working with permaculture and applying it to the various systems of the world that we are a part of, while training those who will follow us. Together those actions continue to make the changes necessary to live in a regenerative world. As much as I would like to see something happen overnight, to do so too rapidly is foolish and dangerous. It’s one thing to uproot our own lives to try something new, but we cannot expect the same of our family, friends, or larger communities. Take one step today, another tomorrow, and over a lifetime you can make a difference to the world.

    The second part for me is the need to expand the pool of permaculture education and permaculture educators. There are many great classes and teachers out there, including some you’ve heard of and hundreds you have not, but we do not have enough to train up the numbers that we need to bring about broad systemic change. The permaculture design course is a great place to get started down this path formally, as are the advanced trainings, but we need more of them, with greater variety. Niches to fill to get this information in the hands of gardeners, home owners, community leaders, and academics. Community programs that fill the role of a PDC-lite, and longer, more intensive ones, like Miriam outlined, that take a particular subject underneath this big umbrella and expands upon it to fill a specific role, be that for a farmer, a community leader, a physician, or parent. Everyone can benefit from permaculture, but we have to bring it to them in a way that is useful and functional to their lives, not ask them to come to us.

    Eventually I’d like to see a formalized program where someone can earn a multi-disciplinary Associates, Bachelor’s, Master’s, and, eventually, PhD, in Permaculture Design from a regionally accredited college or university. Then we can start getting into the 37,000 public and private high schools, and 2,000 non-profit colleges and universities. By doing so we can step out of the niche we currently inhabit with the support of even larger communities.

    This second piece comes from my own journey and biases, I’ll readily admit. I’ve experienced the difference, repeatedly, that a set of credentials can make in opening doors and garnering immediate acceptance and credibility. Just by mentioning “graduate student” I was able to interview a number of guests who had hesitated before to do so. Coming as an academic equal shows our own seriousness and interest in the subjects at hand. Just the same, now that I’m through, mentioning “Master’s degree” opens up other opportunities to teach on college campuses or to act as a corporate trainer. The education isn’t a prerequisite, but it really does shorten the line we’re standing in.

    To keep the ball rolling, if we want to take permaculture mainstream, we need to dig into the system that exists and leverage it to our needs. To be subversive and use what works for us to make a difference. To help students gain access to this education in a way that is equitable to everyone involved. I’m not saying that the educational institutions as they exist are perfect, but we can’t change them if we don’t get engaged. We must do something. We must, each and everyone of us, take action, or these systems will never move in a direction that makes the difference we want them to.

    As a result of this interview and many other conversations over the past few weeks I’ve decided that I am going to continue on my own personal journey to eventually be able to call this show The Permaculture Podcast with Dr. Scott Mann. Though I don’t know how things will work out, as there are many steps in the process, I’ve begun the application process to Penn State University for a D.Ed. in Adult Education, with the plan, should I be accepted, to start this Fall, 2015. During that time I will continue to be available to the community as a resource by email or phone, and will keep creating the podcast in one form or another.

    If you like this show support it however you can. Tell a friend. Share a link on your favorite website, forum, or blog. Listen to your favorite episode with your friends or family. Talk about it. Make a donation via the PayPal link on the left-hand side of the website. Ask your boss, or yourself if you are the boss, to sponsor an episode. Go to and become a member. Send me an email to letting me know what a difference a particular guest had on your life. If I’ve said something that inspires you, or that got your fired up enough to take action, call me: 717-827-6266.

    You can also use that email address and phone number to get in touch if I can help you in any way along your permaculture path.

    Until the next time, take care of earth, your self, and each other.

    Farm School
    Permaculture Skills Center
    FEED Sonoma
    California Climate & Agriculture Network
    Sonoma County Heirloom Festival
    Laguna Farm
    Bohemian Farmers Collective

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